Should I strive for better or love myself as I am?

I have been wrestling with this question my whole teenage and adult life.  When I was younger, it was pretty obvious that I had to try to be better, prettier, thinner, funnier, smarter, nicer, more attractive etc, etc. I used to write out endless self-improvement lists, create impossible new timetables of habits I wanted to introduce, research and print out diets and exercise plans, print out visualization pictures and stick them to my wardrobe and spend more money than I could afford on products to help me achieve my goals. A few weeks in and everything would crumple. I never did quite manage to learn to create a new habit. The only lifestyle change I ever managed to keep was that of becoming a vegetarian at the age of 24. The reason that this stuck is that cutting out meat was a natural progression that came so intrinsically from within that it was effortless to stick to.

I’m now 28 years old and just spent over 400 euro on personal training with no results. I guess its finally time to learn the lesson thats been slapping me in the face for over 15 years…except I can’t quite figure out what it is. This costly experience, as a more mature person, showed me that I have to finally admit that something is not right in this repetitive failed battle for weight-loss and health. They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I have to finally admit that this is whats going on and that the solution is not external. Its not the healthy groceries or the exercise plan that makes this journey successful. Its the switch inside that needs to turn on and really decide this is what I want.

The trouble is that I’m not sure its what I want. I mean of course, I’d love to be skinny and hot but it seems I’m not willing to be that at the expense of continuous sacrifice for the sake of appearance. I lost two friends at a very young age and I think their loss effected the way I live my life so tremendously and wonderfully because I feel like I don’t sweat the little stuff and closeness with death has given me perspective about life. I want to live, live big and in their honor. I cannot imagine saying no to pizza or going to bed hungry or having only one glass of wine all because of the calories. Its feels silly and superficial. Having said that, being overweight means being unhealthy and if I really have perspective then that means I would understand that health comes first. And in theory, I believe this wholeheartedly  – you can do anything you want to do, as long as you are healthy. I guess the trouble is I don’t feel unhealthy yet and it is more the societal pressures of looking a certain way that bother the crap out of me. Thats why I think in reality, I must be kind of okay with who I am. I still swim in my bikini and while I don’t look down and love my body, I don’t look down and hate it either. Its mine, my body, the one I live with every day and I guess I’m used to it. Its other people’s judgement of it that upset me and I want to scream “let me liveee” when a family member passes a comment about my weight.

As a growing adult in the profession of social work, I am taught over and over about the importance of self-esteem, self-love and self-acceptance. Being kinder to oneself, being aware of the voice within – is it overly critical? Is it shaming? In so many ways I am told that I should love myself as I am and that will lead to self-acceptance and self-love which is what life’s journey is about. My therapist tells me that once I love my body, it will fall into its own shape and that I should stand in the mirror naked and tell myself I am beautiful. These past two days I remembered her words. I bathed myself in a warm bath and washed myself with my own bare hands, rubbing soap onto my skin, caressing my arms and legs I usually treat so badly and replacing that with love and appreciation. Today, I went to the beach and instead of shaming myself under the gaze of fellow bathers, I told myself I was beautiful. This afternoon, I cooked myself a nutritious meal because I felt more connected with my body and thats what my body needs. I understood my therapists words a bit more and to be honest, it has felt wonderful.

I know that tomorrow will come and life will get hectic again and I will fall into old patterns and routines. I know the shame is hard-wired inside me and I will wake up, walk to make coffee, feel the jingle of my things and feel some sort of hate. I will then go to brush my teeth and notice the curve of my arms and feel that hateful feeling again. Its so pervasive and subconscious, I almost don’t notice it.

So perhaps it is a problem, just a problem I am used to. Perhaps I should find my motivation in health, not image. Perhaps I should start with self-love, not shame. And perhaps loving myself as I am will actually lead to a better me.

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3 thoughts on “Should I strive for better or love myself as I am?

  1. to begin with, you’re a really beautiful lady, sushma! i was going through the travel pictures and you just look adorable in them w such pretty eyes and i loved the picture w many kids and you in the middle! also i would lie to add, that well, instead of talking about how you failed in maintaining yourself in a way, you thought you could have, why dont you work on it? where there’s a will, there’s always a way! always! it took me a lot of time, get in shape and it’s even more difficult to maintain it! but people still do it! not for anyone, but for themselves! not because they want to look good or impress, but because they want to be better version of themselves! now it’s upon you, if you want to be a better version of yourself or work on yourself! and i think, you’re beautiful now and you’d be beautiful then! take care of yourself!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. From my perspective of what you’ve written, I think you feel people are physically attractive only keep it up because they focus on their appearance, and not for health reasons.

    Im going to speak from my own experience. when i was younger i fucking hated my body, and for no reason quite frankly. i was thin, lean and strong – everything expected, no? I just began to hate it because i compared myself to other bodies i thought were better because when they let their arms down by the sides of their bodies they didn’t have fat bulge to the side, but it stayed the same cylindrical shape (if im making sense). BUT more importantly the only reason i wanted to ‘lose weight’ and ‘eat healthy’ was because i wanted a another ‘shape’. As you’ve mentioned this negative reasoning never ends well. It only ends with you feeling like you have no will power because you didnt manage to keep up the healthy lifestyle.

    However, as you’ve written about when you brush your teeth, i reached a point were, I didn’t love body, i didn’t hate my body but I felt neutral towards it. With time i fell out of that loop of wanting to change my body in some way and slid back into more normal eating habit; food cooked at home by others, ate till i was full, ate for energy and because it was necessary.

    The only time i saw changes in my body (more aesthetically pleasing) was when i was not looking for them. I began to eat more clean, more raw, less processed, cutting out drinks, cutting out meat and dairy, etc. when i wanted to do it because i knew it was harming my vessel. it was harming my temple. it was harming the object that i need to do everything i blabber on about that i will do with my life.

    But how could i truly do what i i say ill do if even climbing to the top of Ghajn Tuffieha to reach the best view point of sunset, I’m out of breath? how could i be present and immersed in the full experience if i cant stop hearing my heart beating in my ears? how can i go for an evening walk if my curled up on the sofa with a bloated stomach from all the shit i just ate? I slowly fazed out all my unhealthy eating habits because they were not worth it.

    I saw physical results when i began to eat properly because i wanted TO BE healthy – not to look ‘hot’. I had an actual reason to eat well. For my experience of life. No one is going to get in my way of backpacking alone and taking photos of fruit and flowers other that the size of my leg muscles to be able to carry me up those hills and the time it takes for my heart rate to return to normal so that i can be present and immersed in the experience.

    The majority of people in the gym are there for their health. YEa some might be their initially for their physical appearance, but everyone i know (including Debbie) keep doing it because it just makes their body feel good! The majority of people in gyms all ate like shit and felt shit at some point in their life (looking shit was just a side effect). The weight loss culture has forgotten why you should lose weight. Lose weight to be healthy and to live as long as possible and to enjoy this life. Looking good is just a trivial bonus.

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